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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

REVIEW: 50/50

MOVIE
50/50

CAST
Joseph Gordon-Levitt,
Seth Rogen

RATING
R

RELEASE
September 30, 2011

DIRECTOR
Jonathan Levine

STUDIO
Summit Entertainment

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 40 minutes






STARS
***1/2











REVIEW:

There are many families around the entire world who suffer with a person who has cancer. It is a sad and frightening time, especially since you have no idea how long, or if the victim will even survive the disease. My family has had plenty of experiences from cancer, myself only been living through one family member's diagnosis. 50/50 tells the story of Adam, a 27 year old man who suddenly finds out that he has a rare type of cancer. This movie shows how Adam lives with the tumor and tries to get through it all, with the help of his parents, a psychiatrist in training, and a friend who only cares about sex and drugs. My dad was gracious enough to let me attend a special screening of this movie on August 2. I am very happy that he let me go see this movie because under all of the Seth Rogen "sex and drugs" humor, 50/50 is a gripping medical drama that deals with the harsh realities of everyday life.

The best thing that I got from this movie was the funny and powerful performances of the entire cast. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who may be well known to audiences from films such as '500 Days of Summer' and 'Inception' plays Adam, the film's sick character. Throughout the movie, you see Adam and the people around him dealing with his cancer in such a way that can make it funny and heartbreaking at the same time.  In fact, Gordon-Levitt's performance of Adam is so realistic and powerful, that he could just as well be a friend of yours that happens to have cancer.  Overall, Gordon-Levitt gives a powerhouse performance, and deserves all of the praise that is to come. 

As many know, Seth Rogen plays Gordon-Levitt's best friend in this movie and as expected, Mr. Rogen is playing himself once again, this time in a cancer movie.  Rogen delivers most of the laughs in this movie, and it's something you just go with.  He also delivers most of the foul language and sexual candor, which is also to be expected.  He is very funny in this movie, but I would've loved to have seen him branch out into a serious role rather than being the weed smoking, foul mouthed, horny we've all come to know and laugh at.  The supporting cast, including Oscar nominee Anna Kendrick, (Adam's young psychiatrist) Bryce Dallas Howard, (Adam's girlfriend) and Angelica Huston (Adam's concerned mother) was fantastic, all playing their parts to help keep this movie going along its melodramatic path.

The script for this movie was written by Will Reiser, who actually wrote the script based on his experience with battling cancer.  Reiser, who is a first time screenwriter has written a very powerful and funny script that will captivate the audience throughout the movie.  There is a particular scene in his movie involving Adam in a car that was so powerful and heavy that I doubt that it came directly from Reiser's mind.  You can see the reality of Adam's diagnosis in the movie, and feel for him as if he was a buddy of yours who has cancer.  Of course I doubt that Reiser had Seth Rogen in mind for this movie, otherwise there wouldn't have been so many f-bombs in this movie.  The script is well written, with the right amount of comedy and drama, and I believe that it should be considered for a Screenplay nomination during awards season this year.

As we're wrapping up the year of 2011, let's look back at what type of dramas we've gotten:  we have seen dramas about girls recovering shark attacks, white women defending black women against the racist, and two brothers fighting in wrestling for different reasons.  The story of a man who has cancer isn't brand new, but it certainly is a fascinating story, especially if it stars he drunkest man alive and was written by a fantastic newcomer who can relate this movie to his personal experience.  Sometimes the best movies come from the personal experiences of one's writer or director.  This fact is clearly shown in '50/50.'  The film will definitely make you laugh at parts, but it will also shock you or possibly even make you cry.  Overall, '50/50' has great acting, a well written script, and a lot of heart as the movie progresses rough its 100 minute length.  Whether you're seeing this movie because you know someone who has cancer, or are just going to see Seth Rogen f-bomb all of the time and make sexual references, you will come out of this movie enjoying what you say.  What are you're chances of seeing '50/50' whenever would be 50/50, but that would be just another one of my lame jokes.



Monday, September 26, 2011

REVIEW: Abduction

MOVIE
Abduction

CAST
Taylor Lautner, Lily Collins

RATING
PG-13

RELEASE
September 23, 2011

DIRECTIOR
John Singleton

STUDIO
Lionsgate

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 46 minutes





STARS
**1/2











REVIEW:

Behold, ladies and gentlemen: the stupidest, yet somewhat fun movie of the year.  'Abduction' is Taylor Lautner's attempt to break out of the 'Twilight' movies and into more mainstream productions.  I'm just going to say flat out that I enjoyed this movie for all the reasons why it's so mediocre.  In no way is this film a masterpiece, let alone a fantastic movie.  However, considering the fact that this movie is currently bombing with critics with a 3% on Rotten Tomatoes, and the fact that the trailers weren't the most impressive, I had myself one hell of a fun time.  The audience was clearly into it, clapping at random parts, "aww"ing when Lautner and Collins are cuddling/frenching, and were just mainly into the film.  People will be shocked by my reaction to the film, but I'm just saying that if you go in expecting pure cheese for two hours, with A-list stars featured in nice supporting roles, you will enjoy 'Abduction.'  I wouldn't recommend this to my buddies, mainly because they don't want to be in a theater filled with screaming girls.  Then again, I do recall a few college guys there by themselves enjoying the film.  College guys, who were straight, enjoying an action movie starring a werewolf.  I highly doubt that this movie will be very successful, considering the small number of Taylor Lautner fans out there.  But for what it's worth, this is a solid and fun action movie.  If a half hour in you start to hate on the movie, walk out!  There's always 'Moneyball' or 'Dolphin Tale' to check out, along with many more films to come this weekend. 

Imagine if your life wasn't what it seemed.  Imagine if your popularity, your parents, your NAME, was all a complete lie?  Well that's the story of Nathan Harper's life, who has only recently found out that everything in his life is not what it seems.  So chaos ensues, the government starts chasing Nathan and his somewhat life long friend/neighbor/high school crush Karen.  If you can handle this interesting plot, so-so acting, and crazy action sequences, then you may be one of the few people who enjoy 'Abduction.'  The story for example is not original at all, which is something to expect from a teen action flick.  In the split second it takes for Nathan and Karen to go on the run and become fugitives, you know EXACTLY what is going to happen at the end of the film.  This is one of the many flaws that the movie presents, so don't go in expecting a pitch perfect flick.  The script isn't well written, the acting is disappointing at times, and the last half hour of the movie is an advertisement for the Pittsburgh Pirates. (Boo, I'm a Phillies fan!)  The movie is pure cheese without a doubt, but there was just something in the cheese that made me enjoy this mediocrity, yet fun film.

As I just said, the acting isn't the best it could have been.  The well formed supporting cast, including Alfred Molina, Sigourney Weaver, and Jason Issacs are good, but not as good as they should have been.  Of the supporting cast members, my personal favorite was Issacs as Nathan's "dad."  Not only was he the most influential on Nathan, but he was the most badass person in the whole film, despite only being in it for the first 25 minutes.  If there is anyone in this movie who at least should get some recgonition for being good, then it should be Lucius Malfoy himself.  Sigourney Weaver is in the movie for about 10 minutes, and I wondered while coming out out of the theater "Why was she in this movie?"  Whether it's because there was nothing else to do, I felt that Weaver's talent was wasted miserably.  As for Molina, he was solid enough, but he wasn't as much of a menacing villain as he was back in 2004 when he played one of superhero's best movie menaces, Doc Ock in 'Spider Man 2.'  The rest of the supporting cast includes Maria Bello and Denzel Whittaker, who were fine, but unneeded for the most part.  If you're looking on what I thought of Taylor Lautner's acting chops, then just read the next paragraph and find out...

I've been familiar with Taylor Lautner ever since he starred in such 2005 (a bad movie year) kiddie films as 'The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl 3D' and 'Cheaper By the Dozen 2.'  Then 'Twilight' came out in 2008, and everyone knew exactly who he was.  I guess that this is Taylor Lautner's way of saying that he wants to be like Robert Pattinson when Pattinson starred in adult films like 'Remember Me' and 'Water for Elephants.'  Let me just tell you flat out that his acting was okay.  Nothing fantastic like Pattinson when getting out of 'Twilight,' but fine enough.  I can see that Lautner was only being a pretty boy trying to look cool with epic stunts.  The girls will be in theaters seats no doubt, but critics who are looking for a fantastic performance by a young actor will be squirming like a baby to get out of the film ASAP.  As for Lautner's co star Lily Collins, she was the female equivalent of Lautner, with all of my Lautner comments also directly towards Collins.  Don't expect a great story or good acting here, folks, because you will walk out very sad that you spent $20 on movie tickets.

A Predictable storyline, so-so acting, and over the top cheese make 'Abduction' a stupid, corny, but enjoyable flick.  The movie does promise an interesting career for young Lautner, who's just finishing up the series 'Harry Potter' style with a two part finale, Part 1 coming out in November, while Part 2 comes out next November.  I doubt that 'Twilight' fans, or "Twi-hards" will really hate this movie, then again I doubt they'll love it with all of their hearts.  Anyone outside of the demographic for which this film was made for will stop at nothing to hate this movie with all of their body, mind, and soul.  I would say to fans of Lautner that if they really want to check this out, wait for the DVD release, as there will be a nice absence of girls screaming when Lautner and Collins make out or when Lautner is shirtless. (Luckily he's shirtless only in one scene, which is about 5 minutes into the film) If you watch or go into this movie expecting something just really stupid, yet entertaining in some ways, then you will enjoy 'Abduction' for what it is: a cheesy movie with a bad script, so so acting, and a predictable ending.  If you see this with any other expectations, then you will be in the same category that the 97% of critics on Rotten Tomatoes who bashed this film are currently in.  The title of the film 'Abduction' actually has no relation to the film itself.  That's only because 'Taken' and 'Unknown' were already made, and they are better films with old school Liam Nesson.





PREVIEWS YOU MAY SEE:

Dream House


The Ides Of March


Footloose


The Twilight Saga:
Breaking Dawn Part 1
(wasn't actually shown but should have been!)


The Grey


One for the Money


The Hunger Games



Wednesday, September 21, 2011

REVIEW: Moneyball

MOVIE
Moneyball

CAST
Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill

RATING
PG-13

RELEASE
September 23, 2011

DIRECTOR
Bennett Miller

STUDIO
Columbia Pictures

RUNNING TIME
2 hours 13 minutes





STARS
***








REVIEW:

The baseball season is quickly coming to a close, so guess what we get in late September?  Yep that's right: a baseball movie. And not just any baseball movie, it's the true story of Billy Beane's attempt to win a few games for the Oakland Athletics while purchasing players with low statistics.  This movie has been all over the map, including some special showings at the TIFF this past week, scoring great reviews.  It might have been because the screening I went to was late on a Thursday night and I got out a quarter after 10:00 really exhausted, but I wasn't as mesmerized by 'Moneyball' as many others were.  Sure Brad Pitt has the charm and wittiness that every great protagonist needs, but the movie felt very long and I was falling asleep at times, trying to keep myself awake.  I did like the movie overall, I just want to let you know that right now.  It was well acted by lead Pitt, the script was well written, co written by Aaron Sorkin of 'The Social Network' fame, and the story was well executed, blending the right amount of comedy, drama, and heart needed.  I did enjoy this film quite a bit, but I enjoyed the 8 minute long 'The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo' trailer that preceeded the movie even more.  Overall, 'Moneyball' is a good movie, but not a great one.  Baseball fans will love it, as well as any movie buff looking for a smart ass Brad Pitt and (surprise) Jonah Hill for once playing someone who doesn't shed a single f-bomb or drinks excessive alcohol.

Billy Beane, the general manager for the Oakland A's is having the worst of luck lately.  Not only is his team the laughing stock of the MLB, but Billy doesn't get any respect from such rich teams as the New York Yankees.  After another unsucessful attempt at getting good players, Peter Brand answers the prayers that Billy has been giving for quite a while.  Peter brings up an interesting plan that may help get the A's straight to the top: in order to get the best players, you must buy the cheapest players with abilities over looked by the baseball teams.  This plan, known as "Moneyball," is such an intellegant plan that it can either put the Billy, along with the A's right on top, or sink and kill their careers faster than the shot of a bullet.

There will be two words that viewers will remember first upon exiting the auditorium for 'Moneyball,' and these words are well deserved to be remembered.  Brad. Pitt.  You will hear a whole lot of praise for Pitt's performance, and let me tell you that it's highly deserved.  Pitt brings a lot of high energy and sarcasm to his role, which brings in the comedy aspect of the film.  I think that Pitt has a fantastic performance in this movie, but I doubt that it will be nominated for any major awards.  However I wouldn't be surprised if he was nominated for anything.  Another great performance in this movie comes from co-star/funnyman Jonah Hill. 

For the first time since the fantastic Ricky Gervais movie 'The Invention of Lying,' Hill plays a very straight man with no f-bombs coming from his mouth (though there are two in the movie) and no drugs in his possesion at any time.  No fat jokes even, just a man who gives a brilliant idea to Brad Pitt.  Hill gives a very strong performance that is nice to see come from this actor.  Maybe the fact that he is now skinny shows that Hill is doing something good with his life, not relying on fat jokes and potty mouth humor throughout.  Phillip Seymour Hoffman is also in this movie, but his role is very small compared to Pitt and Hill.  I know that Hoffman can act great, but that's everything he doesn't do in this movie.  He barely acts, which makes since because his presence lasts about 20 minutes throughout the over 2 hour film.  It would have been nice to see more screen time for Hoffman, even from Hill, who's in about half of the film.  But the audience has to remember (and they'll be happy about this) that this is Brad Pitt's movie, and he is fantastic as Billy Beane.

Do you remember how 'Social Network' was all dialogue and fantastic acting that was wrapped up in a sublime film?  Well this film is only half of that.  Aaron Sorkin, the writer behind the 2010 Academy Award winning movie decided to polish the script up before filming began in July of last year.  If you loved the script for 'The Social Network' as much as I did, you will find 'Moneyball's' script to be just as quirky and witty/funny as the Oscar winning script from last year.  However this script is nothing compared to last year's Aaron Sorkin script.  Brad Pitt may know how to talk the talk and use his charm to win over Jonah Hill and the Oakland A's, but I didn't feel quite as much as a pull by this movie's script as, well, do I need to mention it again?  The dialogue is very well written, just to get back on the postitive note, and the cast knows how to act and work with Sorkin's script very well.  For one of the best written scripts of the year, though not as good as the BEST script of 2010 written by the same guy, 'Moneyball' delivers all the best performances from a solid screenplay, written by one of the best writers of the new decade.  I can't wait to see what Sorkin pulls off next year, if he writes anything next year.

'Moneyball' shows a fantastic performance by Brad Pitt, and a well written screenplay by co-writer Aaron Sorkin, but the rest of the cast isn't used as much as you'd think, and I found myself falling asleep during parts of the film, and the story to be very predictable, even if it's based on reality.  THis may be the first time in movie history where I checked my timer.  I actually checked it TWICE, believe it or not.  The first time was at the 51 minute mark, where the movie was going incredibly fast.  Then the movie got really slow, and I was fading away.  Guess what point of the movie this was at: 1 hour and 35 minutes in!  A 44 minute difference for a 133 minute movie.  It might have been because I had school the next day and I didn't get to bed until 11 that night.  It could have been bewcause the movie didn't start until 8pm when it was supposed to start at 7:30pm. (Actually the reel started up around 7:50, but that only played the eight minute 'Dragon Tattoo' trailer I mentioned before the film) Whatever the reason is, I just wasn't into the movie as much as I wanted it to be. 

I'll tell you what: my dad wants to see this movie anyway, so I'll go take my dad to the movie, see the movie for a second time, and I'll update this post with a better analysis on the movie.  I hope that I missed something when I first saw this movie, because I'd love to enjoy the film much more than I did the first time.  This film will be getting awards buzz very soon, so why not just go check it out.  Moneyball is a good, not great movie with a fantastic performance by Brad Pitt, and a well written Aaron Sorkin screenplay.  What more is there to say?  Oh yeah there is one word that comes to mind, and my dad loves to say this word in a specific way after going to a Phillies game a couple years back: BASEBALL. 





PREVIEW YOU MAY ONLY SEE
AT ADVANCE SCREENINGS OR ONLINE:

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
(8 minute long trailer!!)




REVIEW: Dolphin Tale 3D

MOVIE
Dolphin Tale

CAST
Henry Connick Jr.,
Morgan Freeman

RATING
PG

RELEASE
September 23, 2011

DIRECTOR
Charles Martin Smith

STUDIO
Warner Bros. Pictures

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 53 minutes




STARS
***1/2








REVIEW:

As the summer was ending and students were preparing for school, my family and I were lucky enough to attend a special advance screening of the new 3D family drama 'Dolphin Tale.'  I saw this film exactly one month ago, so as the release is quickly approaching, I am finally letting my thoughts out from behind the curtain.  In case you don't know what 'Dolphin Tale' is about, it tells the story of Winter, a dolphin who lost his tale and, with the help of many believers, recovered by getting a prosthetic tail put in place.  This film is from the producers of the much acclaimed sports drama 'The Blind Side,' in which Sandra Bullock won the Academy Award for best actress.  While the film's cast, including Harry Connick Jr. and Morgan Freeman probably won't be nominated for any awards, 'Dolphin Tale' is a sweet, charming inspirational drama that will have young and old audiences cheering for Winter the dolphin, as well as her kid co-stars.

Like 'Blind Side,' 'Dolphin Tale' isn't afraid to show the gruesome reality of life.  As the trailer and poster show, Winter the Dolphin gets her tail amputated in order to prevent infections from spreading, which makes her ability to live very dismal as she can only swim in a way that could destroy her spine and cause death.  This aspect of the story can be very emotional, since it is very depressing to see this poor animal getting closer and closer to meeting death.  I remember hearing some parents sniffing a bit during some scenes in this movie, so I want to let you know now that this is a sad movie, but always gets lit up soon after.  The story is inspirational, so it may give kids hope about the future, kind of like 'Soul Surfer.'  There was a scene in this movie where you see a mother and a daughter who drove from Atlanta, Georgia to see Winter, and you don't expect this little girl to be handicapped and have one leg.  It was a shocking but satisfying moment for myself, as you clearly see how this poor Dolphin has changed the lives of young kids with disabilities or are missing body parts.  This moment in the film is what really got me, and boy did it get me good.

The casting in this movie was nearly perfect.  I've never seen Harry Connick Jr. or Kris Kristofferson in a movie before, but they gave very good performances throughout the movie, and helped keep the pace of the film going.  Another good cast member, surprisingly to me, was Ashley Judd, who plays the main boy, Sawyer's mother.  From the moment they meet, you expect Harry Connick Jr. and Ashley Judd to become a couple, mainly because they're both single and each have a child.  Luckily, screenwriters Karen Janszen and Noam Dromi were smart enough to leave out this cliché from the film, which is something remarkably different from most kids movies that come out these days.  Romance for the most part in kids movie are highly irrelevant, unless it's a romantic family movie.  Oh wait, has there ever been one of those?  Morgan Freeman is also in this movie:  Do I need to say more? 

When I originally saw the trailer for this movie and the "in 3D" title card came up at the end, I was somewhat disappointed because it seems that studios will convert anything into the third dimension in order to get some extra cash.  However there have been some good conversions recently, 'Captain America' and 'The Green Hornet' being the first movies that come to mind, so I went in with high hopes for a nice 3D experience.  Let me be the first to say that 3D is highly unnecessary for this movie, with most of the scenes in the movie involved human characters trying to find a way to deal with a life of Winter.  My family agreed with me, believing that the movie would have been just as good in 2D.  Luckily the conversion turned out good, and the 3D looked very good.  If you do have to see this movie in 3D, you won't be very disappointed, as the 3D ticket is worth paying for in my opinion.  But if you also get the 2D option, do yourself a favor and save the extra 3D money.  However you see this movie, whether it's in 3D or 2D, 'Dolphin Tale' is a great family film with important lessons on life and a very inspirational story about never giving up.

With harmless laughs, some emotional patches, and nothing but heart throughout, 'Dolphin Tale' may be the best live action family movie out there.  In a year where we got little blue smurfs, wimpy kids in middle schools, and a whole lot of animation, this is a sort of refreshment for the family movie season, as the best thing we got from the summer was either a action packed spectacle or a fun animated flick.  Unless you want to take your kids to see 'The Lion King 3D,' this is the best family movie playing out there right now.  This also may be the first family movie this year that people of all ages will enjoy.  Everyone at my screening seemed to have all had a good time, and there was even a huge standing ovation.  It seems that there's something for everybody this weekend, and it seems that everything coming out is going to be good.  'Moneyball' is for the baseball fanatics and teen boys, 'Abduction' is for the teen girls/Taylor Lautner fans, and 'Killer Elite' is for those looking for some solid action.  It's going to be interesting to see how well this movie does this weekend, but just remember that if you're looking for pure family entertainment, do yourself a favor and check out 'Dolphin Tale,' the best family drama since 'The Blind Side.' (To parents reading this, 'The Blind Side' is rated PG-13, but can still be appropriate for kids over the age of 8.)



Sunday, September 18, 2011

REWIND REVIEW: Win Win

MOVIE
Win Win

CAST
Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan

RATING
R

RELEASE
March 18, 2011

DIRECTOR
Tom McCarthy

STUDIO
Fox Searchlight Pictures

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 46 minutes





STARS
***1/2








REVIEW:

Charlie Sheen must have gotten his catchphrase from the title of this movie, because that's exactly what 'Win Win' does.  'Win Win' is just as funny and charming as much as it's poignant and surprising.  This film tells the story of Mike Flaherty, a New Jersey lawyer who has a position as a wrestling coach in New Providence High School.  After taking up the job of taking care of an old man with dementia, he soon gets an unexpected visit from the 16 year old grandson of the old man.  As it turns out, this kid is a pro at wrestling and may be Mike's wrestling team's only hope.  So Mike takes the kid under his wing and he becomes a major influence on both the teammates and the coaches.  This is a film that will lift your spirits up all the way to the top and keep them up even when the film gets into its dramatic moods towards the middle. 

I've only seen one other Paul Giamatti film in my life, so I don't know how good of an actor he really is from his other work.  I can tell you that Giamatti is excellent in this movie, playing a struggling father with some dark secrets of his own.  Giamatti and the young kid in the movie, Alex Shaffer have such an irresistible chemistry together, that it's almost hard not to enjoy seeing these two men have so little in common, yet can have a sweet father/son like chemistry together.  My two favorite characters in this movie are Bobby Cannavale and Melanie Lynskey as Terry and Cindy respectively.  Cannavale has played the narcissistic ass supporting characters in 'Paul Blart: Mall Cop' and 'The Other Guys' recently, so it comes as no surprise that he plays an even better version of that character in this movie.  He may have the biggest potty mouth that the film has to offer, my my gosh is he damn funny!  Lynskey you'd know for playing the psycho neighbor of Charlie Sheen in 'Two and a Half Men,' so you know that she can be a very funny person.  In this movie, despite being a comedy, is the more dramatic, disturbing character, playing the druggie mother of Kyle, the young kid in the movie.  You would never expect such a deep character from Lynskey, which is all the more reason why she is one of my two favorite characters in the film.

I'm glad I didn't wait 28 days to see this at Redbox, because 'Win Win' is worth any price you pay to see it.  The performances are great, the story is light and moody, and a lot is put in perfectly into the 106 minutes this film has to spend.  Director Thomas McCarthy knows how to make a deep character study film with the oddest sports and some very funny dialogue.  He is an expert in knowing how to control his cast members and get them into the best positions the script can give them.  The movie is only "R" for language, so this should be fine for young adolescent teens if they can handle both kids and adults dropping f-bombs a lot.  So to conclude this review, 'Win Win' is a feel good sports drama with some good comedy put into it.  If you're ever in a bad movie, do yourself a favor and look for this movie somewhere and just watch it.  Sure it's just shy of two hours, but it's well time spent, especially considering the crap we see in theaters today.  I know why this movie didn't find such a big audience like 'Midnight in Paris' did back in the summer, but now it's September, the season of DVD rentals!  'Win Win' isn't just the feel good film currently out on DVD.  Believe it or not, it is undoubtedly one of the best comedies/dramas you'll see this year.  Charlie Sheen may agree with me, but we won't know because of the only word he likes to say: "Winning!"  If he actually is saying this about the movie, then he for once is absolutely right.





Tuesday, September 13, 2011

REWIND REVIEW: Everything Must Go

MOVIE
Everything Must Go

CAST
Will Ferrell,
Christopher C.J. Wallace

RATING
R

RELEASE
May 13, 2011

DIRECTOR
Dan Rush

STUDIO(S)
Lionsgate,
Roadside Attractions

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 37 minutes



STARS
***1/2







REVIEW:

From Ron Burgundy to Ricky Bobby, Will Ferrell is considered by many to be the king of comedy.  He is one of those comedians where you can always laugh at their movies, even if it's the 15th time watching it.  Ferrell is a very smart actor, which is one of the many reasons I believe he decided to be in 'Everything Must Go.'  'Everything Must Go' is a poignant, sweet, and often dark drama about a guy who has lost his wife, his job, and access to his home, so he has to live out on his front lawn with all of his stuff outside until either his wife comes back or the government legally takes everything he owns.  This is the type of movie that Adam Sandler made when 'Punch Drunk Love' premiered at Cannes in 2002, but unfortunately destined to flop because nobody wants to see funny comedians do serious dramas.  This movie was very hard to find, so I like many had to wait for DVD to see it.  So I saw it, and I enjoyed it.  Will Ferrell is a gifted man, who really shows range in his role as Nick.  If you can take Will Ferrell seriously rather than comically just for 97 minutes, I guarantee that you will enjoy this movie.  'Everything Must Go:' it's a well made drama with really acting chops coming from Will Ferrell.

From the very first frame of the movie, you soon realize that Will Ferrel's Nick is having some pretty bad luck at the moment.  He has lost his job, with only a month left to have his company car.  His wife has left him, and has locked all of the doors into his house.  The only thing she leaves Nick is his possessions, which is conveniently thrown on the front lawn like it's trash.  Reluctant but willing, Nick decides to live on his front lawn until his wife comes back to him.  However when the government is willing to arrest Nick for what he's doing, he must attempt to sell his stuff as if it was a "yard sale" before it's too late.

While not award worthy, the acting in this movie is solid for what the film is.  Even though I'm only 14 and not as experienced in film as much as many others are, I'm still saying that I am proud of Mr. Ferrell for making this movie.  Ferrell is a very funny comedian, without a doubt.  However the performance he gives in this movie is very dark, yet very simple and somewhat relatable to.  That's right people: we can relate to a jobless, wifeless, homeless man who happens to be an alcoholic.  This may possibly the best performance given by Will, though I'm not including his really stupid but funny roles.  If Will wants to continue making these kinds of movies, I believe he should.  Who knows, maybe he'll walk into the shoes of another well known comedian turned Academy Award winner: Tom Hanks.  The other performances in the movie were also very good, including newcomer Christoper C.J. Wallace, who happens to be the son of late rapper The Notorious B.I.G. and Michael Pena, who plays Ferrel's buddy lawyer.

I did have one problem with this movie in the end, but this is going into spoiler territory, so if you haven't seen the movie do yourself a favor and just skip this paragraph.  You still here?  Alright, here they come.  I found this movie to be just one big 97 minute play that just showed only the characters that mattered to the story.  You may see some characters who were only mentioned, but their faces are never seen, which I liked.  In some ways Nick's locked house is just the backdrop of the whole movie, which is why we, the audience, should have never gone in in the first place.  Will Ferrell eventually gets back into his house, yet we are taken into his house for one scene towards the end.  To me, I felt that this ruined the whole vibe of the movie.  I felt that the audience should have never gone into the house, because we should be kept wondering about what is going on in there.   It's kind of like going behind the scenes of a show and the illusion of the performance is broken.  You may not have a problem with this happening, but I'm just saying that I thought it ruined the whole entrapment feel that Will Ferrel's character, as well as the audience have in the movie.

'Everything Must Go' is a different movie than most, with a great script and a fantastic leading man.  Will Ferrell is a gifted man, and I should have known that he could pull off a role like this ever since I saw 'Stranger Than Fiction.'  I doubt that this will appeal to all audiences out there, especially the ones who are looking for a smart comedy.  However if you know that you can trust Will Ferrell in anything, no matter how bad or what genre the film is, then you will undoubtedly enjoy this movie.  Director Dan Rush has created a poignant, dark, great movie that will shock audiences as well as give them a different outlook on Will Ferrell.  Ferrell is supposed to have a Spanish comedy called 'Casa De Mi Padre (House of my Father)' come out sometime within the next year, and that's also a different movie for the comedian.  I'm very glad to see that Mr. Ferrell is taking on different projects, because he is giving the world a different view of himself as an actor, being something more than just a dim-witted character that he has perfected over the past two decades.  If you can respect Will Ferrell as a serious actor, or just want to see a great movie, well, 'Everything Must Go' off of your Netflix queue at some point, so why not this movie be first?


Saturday, September 10, 2011

REVIEW: Contagion

MOVIE
Contagion

CAST
Matt Damon,
Lawrence Fishburne

RATING
PG-13

RELEASE
September 9, 2011

DIRECTOR
Steven Soderbergh

STUDIO
Warner Bros. Pictures

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 46 minutes




STARS
***






REVIEW:

It seems that I only come into contact with other critics when I make a comment on Facebook or YouTube that they backlash at.  This happened to me first back into July, when I came in contact with the great Roger Ebert.  He had given the movie 'Zookeeper' three stars out of four, enjoying the movie.  Having not seen the movie yet, I made a comment on Facebook about the review, which became a mini conversation between us two.  The same thing happened yesterday (9/9/11) when I came into contact with Ebert's former TV co-host Richard Roeper.  He had reviewed both of this weekend's new releases 'Warrior' and 'Contagion,' enjoying the latter between the two. (Yeah, 'Bucky Larson: Born To Be A Star' also comes out this weekend, but nobodies really going to see it.)  I hadn't seen 'Contagion' yet, so of course without thinking I make a dumb move and call 'Contagion' just a "germ movie" on his YouTube video page, to which he responds.  These two critics probably don't remember me, and they could probably care less about me, but still, they responded.

I knew I had to check this movie out as soon as I could, so I went to the earliest show on the Saturday morning on 9/10 and see if this movie was worthy of the 82% on Rotten Tomatoes.  Let me just say now that the movie was good.  Not a great movie as some had thought, but it is a well executed movie with more mystery than horror.  Think of 'Contagion' this way: if 'Valentine's Day' had good actors, and the plot was about a deadly virus spreading worldwide rather than dumb holiday romances, then you have this movie.  This is an indie drama/mystery disguised as a big budget end of the world thriller.  This movie will definitely find an audience, but I don't think that this will appeal to the average moviegoer.  You have to keep your mind thinking and remembering that there's six different main characters in six different locations worldwide.  There are people in this movie who you see for about 5 minutes and are absent for another 45 minutes, in which you completely forget that they're in the movie.  While it may be slow and have some rough patches in its 106 minute length, 'Contagion' has enough of a mysterious feel to make a solid recommendation.  Steven Soderbergh is a good director, which makes me want to watch the 'Oceans' franchise now more than ever. 

We all know the plot to this movie: a virus spreads around the world, and people are trying to survive.  It's like the zombie apocalypse when those humans aren't even dead yet.  It's a typical virus story with a somewhat predictable outcome.  For some reason, I wasn't scared of this movie at all.  Sure, something like this could happen in real life, but I just wasn't that terrified of this movie.  I wanted something that could scare the crap out of me every time I see it, like 'The Exorcist' chick, or Heath Ledger's Joker from 'The Dark Knight,' for example.  I wanted to see something that would make me sick to my stomach and give me that strong terror from within.  What you could call this movie is weird and gross.  When the people with the disease die, their mouths foam up and their lips turn to crisp.  During an autopsy scene, you see them get into a dead body's head, and you see them peel the scalp back.  Other than these disgusting traits, the movie isn't gross or scary at all.  This movie was like a two hour long 'Law & Order' episode with great actors dealing with a terrible disease.  Speaking of the actors, they all were pretty good in this movie, even though most of them were in the movie for approx. 20-30 minutes each.

The obvious focus of the movie when you watch the trailer is Matt Damon's character.  Damon plays Mitch, the guy who's wife (Paltrow) and step son are suddenly infected by the mysterious disease and die because of it, while he is supposedly immune from the virus.  For the entire movie, he is trying to protect his daughter from the disease, even if that means house arrest.  If my memory serves me right, Matt Damon was the only character in this movie who was isolated from everyone else, other than Gwyneth Paltrow, and Kate Winslet in one scene.  Damon's performance wasn't bad, but director Soderbergh could have made his role just about as small as Paltrow's character, or just written things that had something to do with the government's attempt to cure the disease.  The final scene involving Damon and his daughter in my opinion was highly unnecessary, and could have easily been cut from the movie to give the ending a bit of a bang instead of a light boom. 

The ensemble as a whole was all good, but there was very little screen time for all of the ladies for the movie.  Yes, I am including Kate Winslet in this sentence, as her role in the movie lasted 15-20 minutes.  Coltillard is in the movie for about 10 minutes, and Paltrow is just the guinea pig of the whole film, actually having screen time with Damon for less than 5 minutes, where the rest of the movie has her seen in pictures and security tapes.  Lawrence Fishburne plays the government official keeping everything under wraps, and Jude Law is the blogger chasing him to find out the truth.  These are the typical characters in an "end of the world/conspiracy" movie, and to me it is something that has been getting old ever since the 2009 disaster flick '2012.'  The cast as a whole are all very good actors, but they got stuck in an end of the world movie where things may or may not have a happy ending.

Despite some plot flaws and actors who are used both too little and too much, 'Contagion' is a good fall movie that will probably make a lot of money opening weekend.  With it's intriguing concept and the all star cast within, there is no doubt that this will be the popular film of the weekend.  However in terms of quality, I'd recommend 'Warrior' over this in a heartbeat, and don't even ask me about 'Bucky Larson.'  I don't think this is worth the price of a ticket, let alone the IMAX experience, which to me was a dumb cash grab made by Warner Brothers.  If you must see this movie, do what I do and go to see it at matinee price on a Saturday or Sunday morning.  I may see it again in a couple of years to see if I get a different opinion upon a second viewing at a different age.  But for now, 'Contagion' is good, not great fall movie.  If Richard Roeper is reading this, then I'm saying to him that I still stand on my opinion that 'Warrior' is this weekend's superior movie.  I believe that I would have loved this movie if it was scarier, and more grotesque than what I saw today.  I just found it to be a two hour political mystery that could easily be dubbed as the marriage of 'Valentine's Day' and 'Law & Order.'  To close this lengthy review, I enjoyed 'Contagion,' but you may like it more if you waited for the DVD/Blu-Ray release instead. 



PREVIEWS YOU MAY SEE:

Drive

Abduction


The Thing


Mission Impossible:
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The Girl with the
Dragon Tattoo

Sherlock Holmes:
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The Dark Knight Rises




Sunday, September 4, 2011

REVIEW: Warrior

MOVIE
Warrior

CAST
Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton

RATING
PG-13

RELEASE
September 9, 2011

DIRECTOR
Gavin O'Conner

STUDIO
Lionsgate

RUNNING TIME
2 hours 20 minutes






STARS
****








REVIEW:

Breaking into the official fall season of film, I officially start it off (not including screenings of September/October films I've already seen) with the new MMA drama 'Warrior.'  'Warrior' is the latest boxing drama to come out onto the scene, so it would be very easy to compare this movie to 'The Fighter,' the other boxing drama that won a few Academy Awards earlier this year.  However comparing this movie to 'Fighter' would be a disgrace to the creators of this flick.  'Warrior' for starters is way better than 'The Fighter.'  The saving point of 'The Fighter' was the incredible acting of Christian Bale and Melissa Leo, as well as a well written, potty mouthed script.  Warrior on the other hand has superb acting, a gripping story, and a feeling that you're right there training and feeling the pain with Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton.  A lot of movies are coming out this fall, but 'Warrior' may be the best one coming out, and it's still early in the game.  There is only one word that can properly describe 'Warrior:' phenomenal.  Warrior is a phenomenal film that with undoubtedly go down as the boxing movie since the original 'Rocky.'  Actually despite being a Philly boy, I'm not much of a fan of 'Rocky.'  So for me, 'Warrior' is the single best boxing movie ever made, and one of the best movies of the entire year.  

Tommy Conlon, a man gone from his family's life for over a decade, and the youngest son of a 1000 day sober father returns home to Pittsburgh in order to do one thing: fight.  He has found out about a huge tournament taking place in Atlantic City, NJ, where the top 16 wrestlers in the world fight for a huge award sum of $5 million, as well as credit for being the toughest wrestler in the world.  Tommy wants his father to train him to win, which he happily does.  Brendan Conlon is a happily married man with two daughters, teaching science at a school in Philadelphia.  Low on money to pay for his house and family, Brendan decides to return to wrestling, being a former pro wrestler, and attempt to win the 5 million dollar prize so his family can have a better life.  But what happens when these two brothers, who are practically on two different worlds come back into eachother's lives' and are forced to fight against eachother rather than stick up for one another?

When most movie goers think of the name Tom Hardy, they think of the only other mainstream movie he was in: 'Inception.'  In that movie he is a sarcastic thief that helps Leonardo DiCaprio pull off the inception mission.  If you enjoyed his performance in that movie, wait until you get a load of Hardy's performance in this movie.  Hardy plays Tommy, the bulk looking brother who's fighting for honor and the money, as well as keeping some secrets from the past 14 years.  Many comic book geeks and Batman fans already know that Hardy is playing the super villain Bane in next year's 'The Dark Knight Rises,' and many of them were skeptic of how this sarcastic man from 'Inception' could pull off such a powerful role.  Even i was curious to see why Chris Nolan chose him to be Batman's new villain.  However after seeing this movie, I can see perfectly why Hardy is the right choice.  His bulkiness and tough/mysterious act in 'Warrior' shows exactly what actors can do if they gain many pounds worth of muscle and just act like an angry tough badass throughout.  This is the official start of a solid career for Hardy, and I could actually see him get some award recognition in the next few months.  However as good as Hardy was, the best role in the movie was Nick Nolte as the sober father of Tommy and Brendan.

I've only seen Nolte in one movie, and heard his voice in another, so I don't have much experience with any of Nolte's work, some of his work I believe garnered him some Oscar nominations.  I can now see from this movie how good of an actor he is when he isn't doing dumb comedies.  This may possibly the single best performance that I have seen by any actor this year.  Nolte's character is only trying to be in both of his son's lives, with one of them refusing to forgive his father from an incident several years previous.  There is a scene involving Nolte and a few bottles of alcohol that was the turning point of the film for me.  The emotions of the character in that particular scene were so chilling, and yet so heartbreaking at the same time.  I will be very surprised if Nolte doesn't get nominated for supporting actor at any major award ceremony this year.  You will be mesmerized by the performance of Hardy and Nolte, but don't think I forgot about Joel Edgerton. 

Edgerton in this movie reminded me a lot of Sam Worthington in 'Avatar' for what I believe are some strong reasons.  First off, Edgerton and Worthington's characters in each movie are fighting to save their families.  They are both involved with very moving family stories that help keep some heart in each film.  Second off, they are both Aussies, so their American accents sound very similar to one another.  When actors try to put on different accents, it's sometimes noticeable that they are trying to make their voice sound different, but it is sometimes good enough that it makes it less annoying than it would be if an American was trying to do an English accent, pulling it off poorly.  Third off, both actors have promising futures ahead of them, with Worthington ahead of the game with films like 'Clash of the Titans' and 'Terminator Salvation.'  Edgerton is actually in a Disney movie next year, entitled 'The Odd Life of Timothy Green,' which actually seems like it could be a solid movie come next year.  Joel Edgerton is very good in this movie, giving off the heart and soul that every movie needs.  If this movie were 'The Fighter,' Edgerton would be Mark Wahlberg, Hardy would be Christian Bale, and Nolte would be a combination of Amy Adams and Melissa Leo if they had a sex change.

In summary, Warrior is a superb sports drama that can appeal to every audience member, even if they have no desire of ever watching wrestling.  The acting is fantastic, the story is moving, and the wrestling is so unbelievable to watch that you can almost feel a wrestler get their shoulder dislocated or sucker punched in the gut.  For a movie being nearly 2 and a half hours, this one just keeps moving along, and the length isn't as noticeable as you would think it would be.  I understand that Lionsgate is doing everything they can to ensure that this movie will be financially successful, including having special sneak preview shows tonight (9/4) at many theaters across the country.  But honestly, I believe that they don't have to do this.  Just from the screenings they had for AMC Stubs members (including me) across the country last Wednesday (8/31) can ensure that this movie will be a huge hit.  I have yet to see 'Contagion' and 'Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star,' the other two new releases for this weekend, but I believe right now that this will be the best movie coming out this weekend.  This is a film that will have you standing up and cheering in your seat.  Yeah, it's one of those movies.  Plus, Peter Gunn (Shia LaBeouf's father in the 'Transformers' movies) is in this, so you know that you will laugh a few times.  If you guys get the chance to, go check out the sneak preview shows of this movie tonight, and comment below with a response.  I want to hear what everyone thought of this movie.  So who will be the champion for this coming weekend?  My early bet is Gavin O'Conner's undoubtedly sublime movie 'Warrior.'  No where is Adrian when you need her...



Saturday, September 3, 2011

REVIEW: Attack the Block

MOVIE
Attack the Block

CAST
John Boyega, Jodie Whittaker

RATING
R

RELEASE
September 2, 2011 (My Area)

DIRECTOR
Joe Cornish

STUDIO
Screen Gems (Sony)

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 28 minutes






STARS
****









REVIEW:

You have no idea how much history I have with 'Attack the Block.'  Ever since this movie premiered at SXSW earlier this year, I have been very eager to check it out.  After all, Edgar Wright, the director of 'Scott Pilgrim vs. The World' had faith in the film and produced it. I've been very eager to see this movie, especially since the film screened in Philadelphia in both May and June and I couldn't attend either screening. Then the film opens on July 29 in select cities and the closest place to me was New York City: 2 hours away!  Now Sony finally brings this movie to Cherry Hill, NJ just as my freshman year of high school is about to begin. My dad and I decided to catch the latest showing of it on Friday night, and now here I am. I am very pleased to tell you that if you're down in the end of summer slumps and just want to go see something great to kick off the fall season, then I have found that movie for you! If you like gore, British slang/swearing, weed, or epic killing aliens, then 'Attack the Block' is the must see movie for you.

On a night of celebration in South London, a young woman named Sam is mugged by a group of teenage boys who live in a building called "The Block." During the mugging, a strange meteorite crashes and an alien comes out trying to kill the kids. Scared but brave, the kids kill the alien, but that only makes matters much worse. More aliens come and are killing anything in their path. Now it's up to these South London kids to defend their town and save their neighbors before the aliens attack the block.

In a time when the only movies that are being released are either, sequels, reboots, remakes, or adaptations, it's nice to see a movie that is fully original and fresh. The only other original movies that have come out this past summer were 'Midnight in Paris' and 'Super 8,' though 'Super 8' was more a Spielberg homage than an original concept. It's ironic in some ways that an original story concept was written by a first time director on a minuscule budget with a cast of nobodies. This sci-fi flick proves that all you need is an idea to make a great movie, with special effects and explosions just being an added bonus if used properly.  Quality is more important than flashy CGI effects and awful uses of 3D, and that proof comes from some of this year's more recent duds.  Directors like Michael Bay and Zack Snyder can learn from this movie, as they know how to work the CGI computers, but they can't exactly write great scripts.  Even the gore in this movie, despite looking very cheesy is effective and will gross you out at least once. 

I know that I've been saying this in reviews for many other films, but the teenage cast of nobodies really make this movie.  The lead of the film is Moses, played by newcomer John Boyega.  He is the leader of the group of teenagers who are out to kill the aliens.  This guy is the real heart and soul of the film, and can really carry a film on his own.  Boyega's supporting cast are only there for the comedic element of the film,  and that only enhances the film's enjoyment.  The most well known person in this movie is British comedian Nick Frost, most famous for such films as 'Shaun of the Dead' and 'Hot Fuzz.'  He plays Ron, a drug dealer who has access to the safest area in the block, which won't be mentioned because it gives away one of the best jokes in the movie.  Another great cast member in the film is Luke Treadaway, who plays the incredibly high, incredibly funny character Brewis.  The best chemistry in the entire movie comes from Ron and Brewis, who are incredibly smart, yet so high it's hard to recognize that.  The rest of the characters, including Jodie Whittaker's Sam and Alex Esmail's pest are all the perfect choices for their roles, each with the right amount of fear, comedic jokes, and swear-filled one liners to satisfy the average moviegoer.

To summarize, 'Attack the Block' is a cinematic experience not worth missing.  It will make you laugh in your seat, it will make you jump out of your seat.  Heck, it will make you feel higher than any of the characters in the film who are smoking weed and just lounging around throughout the 88 minutes of the film.  The aliens in this movie will scare you, even if they're just big ape like monsters with green teeth.  The scenes where they kill numerous humans will gross you out without a doubt.  The slang/English isn't even that hard to understand, that is if you read the slang cheat sheet for the movie.  I have a feeling that this will be one of those movies that gets even better after multiple viewings on DVD and Blu-Ray.  Last year that movie was 'Scott Pilgrim,' and now it's one of my favorite movies!  First time director Joe Cornish has made a film that I guarantee will blow your mind, and I tip my hat to him, along with producer Edgar Wright for having teriffic taste in movies.  You may have to seek this movie out, as I believe it's playing in about 20 cities throughout the country, but it is totally worth the trip and ticket price to see it.  Do yourself a favor citizens of the US, if comedy and horror is your type of shtick, then do yourself a favor: see 'Attack the Block' and become what the media is calling a "Blockhead."  Believe it, bruvs.  Believe.



PREVIEWS YOU MAY SEE:

Drive (Red Band)


Saving Private Perez


50/50


Immortals


Sherlock Holmes:
A Game Of Shadows